You’ve known for a while that you need a new website, but like many business owners and managers, you’re likely paralyzed by the number of options– and the potential amount of work or expense it could take to either update your website or create a new one from scratch. Fortunately, creating a website doesn’t need to be a painful process, and you don’t need to go it alone.
The first, and possibly most important step, is to determine what type of platform you want to use. There are generally three types of web platforms for small businesses: self-hosted content management systems (CMS), do-it-yourself builders, or hosting company website builders. Each offers a mix of features and functionality at different pricing tiers.
Self Hosted Content Management Systems:
Self-hosted content management systems, or CMS, include platforms such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Nearly 30% of all websites on the internet are operated on the WordPress platform, so it’s no surprise that this system is also the most popular for small businesses. But regardless of the CMS you use, they all offer the flexibility to create what you need while still being relatively simple to use. With these platforms, you download the software, install it on a hosting account and have complete control over your own website.
The platforms themselves only offer some very basic functionality but almost any function you want can be added through the use of plugins. A plugin is a small piece of software that gives your website special capabilities.
Want eCommerce? There’s a plugin for that!
Want membership? There’s a plugin for that!
Want a chat feature? There’s a plugin for that!
In fact, for each of these features, there are multiple plugins you can choose from that will add different features and capabilities.
Just as with functionality, CMS platforms offer countless options for themes that drive how your website looks. Some are very simple and basic while others are very advanced and offer the latest in website design.
Although rare, sometimes you can’t find the exact feature you want or the exact layout that describes your company. CMS platforms also offer you the option to create your own theme or plugin if you have some programming knowledge and know how to write PHP and CSS code. This is why CMS platforms are so popular– they offer beginning users ease of use, and give power users the ability to customize just about anything.
Surprisingly, these platforms are actually free, but there is an ongoing cost to host the website. If you want a professional-looking website, you’ll likely also want to have a professional web designer build your site. However, you will own the website, meaning it’s completely yours to host wherever you want and do with it as you please.
Do-it-Yourself Web Platforms
A second type of platform is the Do-It-Yourself platform. Examples of these include Squarespace, Wix or Weebly. These platforms are much more rigid in their structures and are less flexible than a self-hosted CMS, but they are extremely easy for novice users to manage. You don’t have to download or install anything. Instead, you simply create an account, choose a theme and start adding content.
These DIY platforms have built-in functionality for some of the most popular features, like adding maps, eCommerce, or members-only content. But custom features are typically very limited to a small selection offered by the platform– meaning even if you have a developer on staff, they won’t be able to create a custom plugin for you.
As for cost, DIY platforms usually offer a free tier, but your website address will likely contain the name of your web service: something like mycompany.wix.com. If you want to use your own domain, like mycompany.com, you’ll typically need to upgrade to a paid tier. Paid tiers are also required for additional functionality or more theme choices. You also won’t own your website; instead the site will be hosted on the platform’s servers. If you decide you don’t want to use their service any more, you can’t migrate it to another platform.
WordPress offers a similar platform to these services, called WordPress.com. It offers an easy-to-use version of WordPress with more limited options than the self-hosted CMS version.
Beyond the fact that these platforms are typically easy to use, one of the main advantages of these builders is that there is little website maintenance to perform. While CMS platforms require updating the software, plugins and themes regularly, DIY platforms are hosted and managed by the company automatically so you never need to worry about it.
Hosting Company Website Builders
Finally, many web hosting companies and domain sellers offer their own website builders. GoDaddy, one of the most popular domain sellers, offers its own website builder so you can have your domain and website all managed in the same place. These website builders are typically very easy to use but offer the least amount of flexibility and functionality. Their main advantage is that they automatically integrate your domain and email service.
Like the DIY builders, these websites are not portable and are instead tied to their original platform. So, if you start with GoDaddy and decide to migrate to HostGator for your domain or email, you will have to leave your website at GoDaddy. If you decide to move your site to a different hosting company, you will need to start all over again.
There is always a cost associated with the hosting company builders. They don’t offer a free tier, but they are often less expensive than the DIY builders.
Summing it All Up:
If you’re looking to create a fully functional, customizable, and professional website, a full CMS will give you the most options. Professional website designers like the web development team at CONRIC pr + marketing will typically use a CMS to build your website, then handle the management of the site once it’s launched.
However, if you prefer to build the site yourself and save the upfront cost of a professional designer, then a DIY or hosting company builder might be a better option for you– just remember, your options for customizing your site and adding functionality will be very limited, and you’ll never be able to migrate your site to a different platform if you change your mind.
A good website is a must for any brand. If it’s time for a website tuneup or a new site for your business, contact our team at CONRIC pr + marketing at 239-690-9840 ext. 1001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.